Old 07-04-2015, 08:55 PM #1 (permalink)
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Default Throat spasm (?) vs. choking

Hi everyone. I was wondering if anyone has experienced a throat 'spasm' where they can't breath and get panicky yet are still getting oxygen (vs. actually choking on an object). My dad had a real choking incident this morning (on watered down oatmeal), then two 'spasms' throughout the day (one required my mother to pull over while driving to assist him). I've witnessed this twice and was terrified. He can take a sip of water when it happens and once he calms down it passes. He says its from saliva. A suction device was delivered to the house but I have not heard of it being used.

The choking that is real has me concerned for aspiration pneumonia. He had a swallow test done two weeks ago and was told to chew carefully, take frequent drinks with food and avoid meats like chicken and hamburgers. Went out for a burger tonight. I know he's going to go out his way and continue to do what he wants. In the meantime, should I just be practicing the Heimlich and call 911?
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Old 07-04-2015, 09:07 PM #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Throat spasm (?) vs. choking

Ive had throat spasms, they are called laryngeal spasms, and are just another wonderful thing ALS gives us.
The flaps in the throat close up and the harder you try to get air in the tighter they close. This is separate from choking, though it certainly feels like that.
If that's what you are talking about do exactly the opposite of what your instinct tells you to do, breath in very slowly, and tilt your head back. this serves to reduce and eventually end the spasm.
Its very scary, but not life threatening. the worst that can happen is that if the spasm continues you lose consiousness, at which time the muscles relax, the spasm ends, and you start breathing again.
First time it happened to me it woke me up and I was terrified.
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Old 07-04-2015, 09:20 PM #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Throat spasm (?) vs. choking

Thank you so much. I will definitely tell him to try that the next time!
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Old 07-05-2015, 08:43 AM #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Throat spasm (?) vs. choking

I have been experiencing the same, it is very scary! I have been wrestling with is it a spasm or am I choking too. My experience has been when pieces of food lingering on my tongue, it can set off a tickle, triggering the cough reflex & with excess saliva lingering in my mouth I choke, cough & the spasm starts! Learning not react to the spasm has been the hardest, realizing I am getting air but the noise (a indescribable squealing) makes everyone around think I'm not breathing. We have to swallow (it's involuntary). Thanks for bringing this up it has really helped me. The tip to tilt my head back is very appreciated, I will do that. Thank you
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Old 07-05-2015, 08:54 AM #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Throat spasm (?) vs. choking

Laryngospasms are frightening as are 'choking' incidents.

Firstly, with ALS it's not truly choking as in an obstruction, but it sure as hell feels like choking.

Staying calm is the most important thing (as a CALS I know this is easier said than done and I don't know how I would react!). Neil says it perfectly. I was really in awe of how Chris learned to handle these as the first couple of times we both really felt in true panic.

Yes, aspiration is a danger at these times, but as Neil says, choking is not really the issue.

So learning to breathe slowly and stay calm with your dad is important. Often if one person can breathe slowly they can help the other person slow their own breathing down.
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Old 07-05-2015, 12:30 PM #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Throat spasm (?) vs. choking

>Staying calm is the most important thing

Ditto that! -- all of it!
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